VOCABULARY - IDIOMS


Idiomatic Expressions - List in Alphabetical Order


idioms

List of idioms in alphabetical order

A list of idioms arranged in alphabetical order (with definitions and examples.) For a list arranged in categories, click here


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Learn English Idioms

A list of English idioms with definitions and examples:

hale and hearty
in a good health.

In spite of her old age, she looks hale and hearty.

Category | health

hand in the till
To have one's hand in the till, means to steal from one's employer.

The word till refers to a drawer, small chest, or compartment for money, as in a store.

Another variation of this idiom is:
have one's fingers in the till.


The boss fired him because he was caught with his hand in the till.

Category | crime

handle someone with kid gloves
to be very careful and polite to a person because you don't want to hurt him or her, or you don't want to to make him or her angry or upset.

He has become so sensitive after his divorce. You need to handle him with kid gloves.

Category | clothes

hands are tied
If your hands are tied, you are unable to help, intervene or act.

Another variant of this idiom is:

something has tied someone's hands

I'm sorry. I can't help you. My hands are tied.

The new legislation has tied his hands.


Category | parts of the body

hat in hand
The phrase hat in hand means to ask someone for a favor with humility.

Another variation of the idiom is cap in hand

She came back hat in hand asking for forgiveness.

Category | clothes

have a card up your sleeve
To have a secret plan that can be used when needed.

The origin of this idiom


Reference to cheating or dishonest card players when they secretly put a card up their sleeve to be used when it is required.
Now the phrase is used to refer to a backup plan, a sort of contingency plan - an advantage that others don't have.

She still has got something up her sleeve, and it should solve all her problems.

Our team has been the weakest in this tournament, but I think they've still got one or two cards up their sleeve.

Nancy must have an ace up her sleeve; otherwise, she wouldn't have rejected that offer

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/k4QSNY4Vecw" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>


Category | clothes

have a chip on your shoulder
The phrase to have a chip on one's shoulder means to be be angry about something that happened sometimes in the past or to hold a grudge.

The origin of the phrase comes from a north American custom. It became a convention during 1800s to place a chip on one's shoulder to show that they are ready for a fight if anyone dares to take the risk.

The New York newspaper Long Island Telegraph reported on 20 May 1830:

"when two churlish boys were determined to fight, a chip would be placed on the shoulder of one, and the other demanded to knock it off at his peril".


Although he has become a millionaire, he still has a chip on his shoulder about not going to university.

Category | parts of the body

have a cow
(also have kittens) to be very worried, upset or angry about something

My father had a cow when I stayed out late yesterday.

Category | animals

have a face like thunder
This idiom is used to describe a person who is angry or upset about something.

She had a face like thunder when she discovered the truth.

Category | weather

have a leg up on somebody
to have an advantage over someone.

She probably has a leg up on the other students because she is more studious.

Category | parts of the body

have a lot on one’s plate
This idiom is used to mean that one is very busy and have commitments.

Another variation of this idiom is have too much on one's plate.

Alice: Are you coming to the party tonight, Jane?
Jane: No, I have a lot on my plate right now.


Category | furniture

have a short fuse
If you have or are on a short fuse, you have a tendency to lose your temper quickly.

She is rather a nice and calm person, but whenever her ex-husband calls her, she finds she is on a short fuse.
Don't make him angry! He has got a short fuse!


Category | technology and science

have a whale of a time
The phrase to have a whale of a time means to have an exciting or fun time.

In other words, if you say "I have a whale of a time", this means that you enjoy yourself very much.

Using the term whale in this idiom is a way of saying to have a big time.

I had a whale of a time at the party yesterday.

Category | time

have an axe to grind
to have a strong opinion about something.

The members of that association have no political axe to grind; they just want to help the street children.

Category | general

have ants in your pants
The phrase to have ants in your pants is an idiomatic expression that means
to be very excited, restless, anxious or worried about something.

It's the first time that he dates a girl. That's why he's got ants in his pants.

Category | clothes

have big ears
to be nosy and listen to other people's private conversations.

Speak quietly. Nancy has big ears you.

Category | parts of the body

have bigger fish to fry
(also have other fish to fry; have more important fish to fry) to have other things to do; to have more important things to do.

I can't answer your question. I have bigger fish to fry.

Category | animals

have egg on one's face
The phrase to have egg on one's face means to be embarrassed by something one has done.

There are different speculations about the origin of the phrase:

1. Because soft-boiled egg was a common breakfast dish, sometimes one would have accidental runny egg on one's face, causing some embarrassment.

2. When a performance was strongly disliked, the audience would pelt the performer with things, including raw eggs. This was obviously a source of embarrassment.

If the president doesn't keep his promises, he will end up having egg on his face.

Category | food

have friends in high places
to know powerful people.

Don't worry about the problem. I have friends in high places.

Category | relationship

have kittens
(also have a cow) to be very worried, upset or angry about something.

My father had kittens when I stayed out late yesterday.

Category | animals

have money to burn
to be very rich and spend a lot of money on unnecessary things.

He seems to have money to burn. He always buys his girlfriend extravagant things

Category | money

have one's wires crossed
(also get one's wires crossed) to be confused.

You've really got your wires crossed! You don't know what you are talking about.

Category | general

have other fish to fry
(Also have bigger fish to fry; have more important fish to fry)to have other things to do; to have more important things to do.

I can't answer your question. I have other fish to fry.

Category | animals

have something down to a science
said when you are able to manage doing something very well.

They have the management of the concert down to a science.

Category | technology and science

have the hots for someone
To be strongly sexually attracted to someone.

He has the hots for her but he can't tell her. He's so shy.

Category | sexuality

have time on your hands
The phrase to have (too much) time on one's hands is an idiomatic expression that means that one has extra time.

I don't have much time on my hands. I'm too busy.

You waste too much time watching TV. Since you have time on your hands, start working out.


Category | time

have to face the music
accept or face the unpleasant consequences of one's actions.

Leila didn't manage to finish the job on time and had to face the music.

Watch the video:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hheC7kId4-U" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>


Category | music

have too much on one's plate
The idiom have too much on one's plate means to be too busy.

Another variation of this idiom is have a lot on one's plate.

I have too much on my plate right now. I can't help you.

Category | furniture

he that would the daughter win, must with the mother first begin
This is a proverb which means that if you intend to marry a woman, first try to win her mother on your side.

Listen Joe, if you want to marry Nancy, try to impress her mother first and be sure that she is on your side. He that would the daughter win, must with the mother first begin.

Category | relationship

head over heels
completely in love.

They fell head over heels for one another at the very moment they met.

Category | parts of the body

heart of gold
A person with a heart of gold is a person who is very kind and has a good nature.

It is an idiomatic expression that alludes to gold as a precious metal. In this sense, a person with a heart of gold refers to someone who has a heart which is valued for its goodness.

She is so sweet; she has a heart of gold.

He is a good boy with a heart of gold. He would never break her heart.


Category | parts of the body

heavy weather
The phrase heavy weather refers to considerable difficulty.

The expression alludes to bad weather at sea.

An variant of this idiom is:

heavy going

See a related idiom:

make heavy weather of something

1. Because of the recession, I think it's going to be heavy weather for all of us.

2. My daughter found mathematics heavy going.


Category | weather

help a lame dog over a stile
said about someone who helps people who are in difficulty or trouble.

You can trust him. He always helps a lame dog over a stile.

Category | animals

high man on the totem pole
the most important person in a hierarchy or organization. (Opposite: low man on the totem pole)

I want to meet the hign man on the totem pole.

Category | religion

high time
If it's high time you did something, it is the appropriate time for it.

It's high time you began learning how to drive.

Category | time

highway robbery
This expression is used to refer to a price or a fee that is exorbitantly high.

The price for wine in this restaurant is simply highway robbery

Category | crime

highways and byways
major and minor roads.

They spent their holiday exploring the highways and byways of the country

Category | travel

hit a home run
to be successful.

They hit a home run with their excellent performance in the new play.

Category | home

hit and miss
If something is hit and miss, it is unpredictable and may produce good results or it may fail altogether.

This idiom is used as an adjective and can be hyphened.

Example:

a hit-and-miss method

another variation of this idiom is:

hit or miss

The service they offer in this company can be hit-or-miss.

The selected books were hit or miss.

It is a hit-and-miss affair to find a reliable doctor in this city.


Category | war

hit the ceiling
to become very angry and start shouting.

He hit the ceiling when he knew the truth.

Category | home

hit the nail on the head
said to describe exactly a situation or a problem.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that the Smiths lack a sense of cooperation in their family.

Category | parts of the body

hit the panic button
(also press or push the button)to panic suddenly.

Relax! Don't hit the button it's just the wind.

Category | technology and science

hit the road
To begin traveling; to leave a place; to go away.

1. We've got a long way to go. Let's hit the road to make it by sunset.
2. It's time for me to hit the road; it is getting late.


Category | travel

hit the roof
to become angry and start shouting.

The teacher hit the roof when the student was very late again.

Category | home

hitch one's wagon to a star
aspire to do something great or aim high, follow a great ambition.

he urged his students to hitch their wagons to a star.

Category | travel

hold someone accountable (for something)
to consider someone responsible for something.

I hold you accountable for whatever happens to my daughter.

Category | law

home away from home
(also home from home) a place where you are at ease as if you were at home.

When I used to visit her, it was really a real home away from home.


Category | home

home free
to be certain of being successful because you have finished the most difficult part.

Once you hand in the last part of your dissertation, you're home free.

Category | home

home truth
The phrase home truth refers to an unpleasant fact about oneself.

It is usually in the plural form: home truths.

It is high time I told him a few home truths.

Category | home

horse of a different color
(also horse of another color) a different matter.

If you want to invest in the stock market, it's ok. Gambling, however, is a horse of a different color.

Category | animals

Hot potato
An awkward or delicate problem with which nobody wants to be associated.

Gun control in the United States has always been a hot potato for politicians.

Category | food

how come?
used to ask how or why.

So how come you missed the train?

Category | general

hungry as a bear
If you are as hungry as a bear, it means you are really hungry.

Other variations of this idiom include:

Hungry as a bear
Hungry as a hunter


I am always hungry as a bear after working out.

Poor kid! He hasn't eaten a bite for more than a day. He's hungry as a bear.

Eat something before we leave for the expedition. Otherwise, you'll be as hungry as a wolf.


Category | animals

hustle and bustle
The phrase hustle and bustle refers to a busy activity usually in a noisy surrounding.

I don't like the hustle and bustle of big cities.

I need to have a break from the hustle and bustle of the big city.


Category | work

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

What are idioms?



Related materials

Recommended books: